Native Americans refer to indigenous peoples in the southern, eastern, and interior United States and parts of Alaska. In regions such as Hawaii and New Zealand, the term indigenous can refer to the general population, consisting of Polynesian peoples, Melanesians, Micronesians, and Polynesians, among others.

However, many Native American groups prefer to use the term "Indian," and others like "Native American." Similarly, where "tribe" or "band" have historically designated a group of Indians of the same or similar heritage, Native Americans have increasingly preferred the terms "nation" or "people."

This causes an unusual complexity in the body of Native American laws because of the wide variety of synonymous terms used to describe the same peoples, social structures, and legal principles. This complexity might be better understood in the different contexts in which the word "Indians" was historically used in the British colonies. The New World Indians were physically removed to other areas and were subject to different environmental and legal circumstances.

States recognize the unique cultures and promote economic independence within state Indian tribes. The federal recognition of Indian tribes allows the laws of those tribes to be enforced by their tribal court system. Factors like the extent of tribal control, political coherence, and continuity play a role in which tribes receive federal recognition.

A confederation is a political system in which independent states or provinces are united by a central authority but retain some internal freedoms. It is a form of federal union. In the English-speaking world, the term is most commonly associated with the British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations. In this context, however, 'confederacy' usually refers only to states that formed part of the 'Confederation of British North America' in 1867. Unlike a unitary state, a confederation has no government with plenary power over all aspects of the country.